The Pentagon was threatened yesterday with a 25 percent cut in the personnel of all its intelligence-related agencies unless it moves swiftly to eliminate duplicate programs, uneven security and inadequate sharing of information.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to impose the cut over a five-year period starting in fiscal 1992 to underscore its impatience with rising intelligence costs in the Defense Department and its insistence on significant steps to cut them back by next March 1.
The reductions would affect the eavesdropping National Security Agency (NSA) as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and all the military service intelligence agencies, including the more than 140,000 uniformed personnel who support the NSA's work here and at listening posts around the world.
In a companion move, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence assailed wasteful Pentagon intelligence spending in its report yesterday on the 1991 intelligence authorization bill and said it also expected progress by the March 1 deadline.
"Every echelon" from the office of the Secretary of Defense, to the Army, the Navy and Air Force, to the regional commanders in chief around the globe and units below them "have their own organic intelligence arms," the intelligence committee said. "For each organization, we need separate buildings, separate administration, separate security, separate communications, and separate support services."
The result, the report said, has been significant duplication of effort, insufficient sharing of information, uneven security regulations, pursuit of parochial interests, and in the midst of all this, "gaps in intelligence support and coverage despite the number of intelligence organizations."
The threat of the 25 percent personnel cut, starting with 5 percent on Oct. 1, 1991, was set down in the $289 billion defense authorization bill unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), who serves on both the armed services and intelligence panels, said he pushed for the reduction. He said defense intelligence agencies consume 85 percent of the nation's intelligence budget. "They need coordination and consolidation," Cohen said.
The CIA and other components of the intelligence community outside the Pentagon, such as the FBI's counterintelligence apparatus, share the other 15 percent of the secret budget, which has been estimated at about $30 billion a year for the so-called National Foreign Intelligence Program. In addition, billions of dollars are allocated each year for the tactical intelligence efforts of the military services.
The intelligence committee said in its report that another problem "is that the tactical and national intelligence communities appear to be excessively isolated from one another, leaving each free to pursue self-sufficiency in their particular realms."
Military commanders, the panel said, contend they cannot rely on the national systems for support while the national community "emphasizes its peacetime missions and pays scant attention to the commander's need."
Both Senate committees directed Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney and, "where appropriate," CIA Director William H. Webster to review all Pentagon intelligence programs "and to the maximum degree possible, consolidate or begin consolidating all redundant functions." Cheney and Webster were told to report on their work by next March 1 and they were warned that the two committees intend to hold "joint hearings to monitor the progress of these efforts."
Since 1980, "there has been a tremendous expansion in intelligence budgets" and this has continued to some extent even after the overall defense budget began to decline, the intelligence committee said. Now, with the changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, "it is clear that the underlying rationale for many of these programs is in serious need of review."
New priorities, the panel said, will include "more daunting arms control monitoring," stepped-up counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism programs, better intelligence on political and economic developments around the world, and an improved ability to contend with the worldwide proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
All these needs, the committee said, make it all the more important to reorganize Pentagon intelligence activities.
The committee also said it has decided to fund "an initiative to augment our human collection" efforts against political, economic and military threats. Lawmakers have said in interviews the CIA's human espionage network needs to be bolstered significantly in years ahead.
Drawing on the lessons of the Iran-contra scandal, the committee also voted to make the president responsible for ensuring that any illegal intelligence activity is reported to the House and Senate intelligence committees and to see to it the committees are kept "fully and currently informed" of any significant intelligence activities that are about to be undertaken.
Current law imposes these responsibilities on the director of central intelligence and intelligence agency heads.
Staff writer Molly Moore contributed to this report.